When a person is harmed because a doctor or other medical professional was negligent, there are many struggles, including physical, emotional, and financial. The compensation that is awarded as part of a medical malpractice claim is intended to recognize these different types of injuries to the extent possible. Although the terms vary somewhat from state to state, the general idea behind the award of compensation is the same. One of the things that does depend on the jurisdiction in which the case is filed is the award of punitive damages in recognition of the egregiousness of the mistake that was made and the harm that was done.
When a medical mistake has led to severe injury in a person, one of the things that results is the accumulation of hospital and doctor bills, as well as the loss of the ability to work in many situations. The award of economic damages is intended to compensate for financial damages that were the result of the medical malpractice. These damages are calculable and include unpaid medical bills, lost wages, expenses relating to accommodations for the home and personal vehicles, necessary in-home care and replacement services (such as needing to use a taxi because the person no longer is able to drive), and miscellaneous expenses that are attributable to the harm that was suffered. These damages also are intended to compensate for expenses that will be incurred in the future, including long-term therapy and rehabilitation.
In many cases, it is critical to have a financial expert who can accurately and persuasively project future economic damages through the use of actuarial tables in order to have these expenses included in the award or settlement. For those costs that already were incurred, the best way to get compensation is to present receipts and bills as evidence. When lost wages are part of the damages being sought, it will be necessary to prepare previous tax returns, earnings slips, and wage records in order to demonstrate that the person has not been able to earn the salary or wages that he or she did prior to the malpractice.
This category of damages is intended to compensate for the intangible harm that a person may suffer as the result of a medical professional’s negligence. It may include recognition for the pain and suffering that would not have been experienced but for the negligence. It requires legal skill to develop the case for non-economic damages because it is not simply a matter of presenting a bill and a receipt. In a jury case, the jurors must understand how significantly a person’s life has changed because a doctor made a severe, and entirely preventable, mistake. In many states, there is a cap on the amount of non-economic damages that can be awarded in a medical malpractice or other personal injury case. These caps often are a result of the tort reform movement, where major insurance providers have fought to limit the damages that a person can recover, despite how traumatic the impact of the malpractice.
The third broadly-recognized category of damages is punitive damages, which are awarded in addition to economic and non-economic damages in the states that allow for these types of damages. Punitive damages are what they sound like, a means of imposing penalties for extreme types of wrongdoing on the part of a medical professional. Even in states that allow for punitive damages, they are not common in medical malpractice cases. It often depends on whether the doctor, nurse, or other medical provider acted in a grossly negligent manner or committed an intentional act that led to the harm. Depending on the jurisdiction, it likely will be the judge who determines whether or not punitive damages are appropriate and what the amount of that award will be, even if there was a jury that determined the award of economic and non-economic damages. In most jurisdictions that provide for punitive damages, there is a statutory cap on the size of the award.
Stern Law, PLLC Strives to Obtain Compensation for Its Clients
When a person has experienced the devastating harm that results from a medical provider’s negligence, there are many dramatic changes in his or her life. Medical bills and lost wages may wreak financial havoc on the family, while debilitating pain prevents him or her from participating in the life that was enjoyed before the negligence. It is crucial to obtain compensation to redress all of these wrongs. At Stern Law, PLLC, we know how terrible medical malpractice can be for a victim and his or her family. For more than 30 years, we have focused on getting the compensation that medical malpractice victims need to re-build their lives. In addition to advocating for our clients, we also act as a resource for those who have been impacted by medical malpractice. We have people available to answer questions 24 hours a day, seven days a week for anyone who has a question or concern, regardless of whether or not you are our client. Call us at 1-844-808-7529 or fill out an online contact form in order to learn how we can help you get through this difficult time.